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Missing Marizela: Ten Years
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March 5, 2011. I remember the moment like it was yesterday when my family contacted me in a panic to let me know that my 18-year-old cousin and goddaughter, Marizela “EmEm” Perez, had gone missing.

“Help.”

It’s the text you get in the middle of the night that doesn’t seem real. Ten years ago this week, EmEm vanished from the University of Washington campus in the middle of a sunny afternoon. She was last seen walking away from a Safeway grocery store in the U District and into the dread void of uncertainty. Once again, as I have done faithfully and heartachingly for the last decade, I must report that there is still no news on her whereabouts. Nothing. In 2019, I finally received some Seattle Police Department documents in response to a public records request about her case. But nothing in the trove shed light on any potential investigative leads.

In my home office, I keep a bulging file called “Find Marizela.” There are handwritten notes of conversations with police, carefully constructed timelines, social media archives and holiday photos gathered around the piano singing Christmas hymns and carols. There’s also a stack of missing person flyers emblazoned with the headline, “HAVE YOU SEEN ME?” illustrated with screenshots from the Safeway surveillance video. Pale and fleeting, EmEm looks like a ghost—drained of the beautiful, bubbly energy she embodied as a child who loved baking cookies and playing board games with me.

The description on the flyer reads:

“Asian female, 5’5″ tall, 110 lbs, skinny build, asymmetrical bob with short bangs and brown/red highlights hairstyle, tattoo on left inner arm with the words ‘lahat ay magiging maayos’ (all will be well), last seen wearing a dark jacket with hood over a light color sweater with hood, denim jeans, light brown suede laced boots, possibly wearing green eye contacts, carrying a denim drawstring backpack with rainbow butterfly screenprint, with a Macbook Pro laptop.”


Ten years.

The first weeks after she disappeared are now mostly a blur, but a few memories are indelible. I remember breaking down while a teenage girl sang “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry at my then-7-year-old son’s talent show on the night before I flew out to Seattle to be with Marizela’s parents:

If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song
Lord make me a rainbow, I’ll shine down on my mother
She’ll know I’m safe with you when she stands under my colors…
…Gather up your tears, keep ’em in your pocket
Save them for a time when you’re really gonna need them, oh

I won’t forget the kindness of strangers and old friends who volunteered to help us search local parks and public streets. I remember feeling lost and desperate in Discovery Park, staring out toward Puget Sound, praying to God, asking: “Where? How? Why?”

For all the negativity that surrounds the reputation of the national media, I have nothing but praise and thanks for the local reporters — Christine Clarridge at the Seattle Times and Shomari Stone at KOMO, in particular — who covered Marizela’s story with compassion and context. Clarridge highlighted Marizela’s case, as well as the plight of other families with missing young adults, in a searing front-page feature on what parents go through in cases where the police have not found evidence of foul play. Suicide was a primary assumption on the part of the police. EmEm did have a history of depression. But the case of young Joyce Chiang — whose death in 1999 was reclassified as a homicide in 2011 by Washington police who mistakenly insisted the case was a suicide — shows the dangers of locking into assumptions without thoroughly exploring all leads.

Ten years on, the investigation into Marizela’s disappearance has all but come to a halt. But if you live in the Washington area and have any relevant information about her whereabouts, please contact the Seattle Police Department at (206) 625-5011. And for those who have to go through this same hell, a hell I wish on no one, I leave you with five hard-learned lessons from a decade’s worth of unknowing:

1) Document everything.

2) Take an immediate and full inventory of your loved one’s internet footprint — every email account, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and social networking account.

3) Don’t assume the police are pinging cell phones, obtaining internet or phone records or obtaining surveillance camera video. Don’t assume anything.

4) Make sure your loved one’s info gets into the NAMUS (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System) database immediately.

5) Don’t be afraid to be a squeaky wheel.

If you don’t speak up for your missing loved one, no one will.

Michelle Malkin’s email address is [email protected] To find out more about Michelle Malkin and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

 
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  1. I watch the video I noticed that she paused for a few moments after leaving the store because you can see by her shadow that she stopped possibly to check messages on her phone?

    I’m wondering if the private investigator checked all the surveillance cameras in the area that may have caught her movements beyond just leaving the store.

    Usually there are so many cameras you can track a person’s movements sometimes several blocks later.

    • Replies: @The Searchers
    @Frank924

    I don’t know if the cell phone provider was asked or perhaps subpoenaed for records of cell phone use and location, since location can be determined by cell phone towers, giving a gps location in some cases. That may have occurred prior to widespread adoption of that technology.
    The National Intelligence agency actually monitors all cell phone conversations, although I don’t know if their records are accessible to local police.
    Never give up.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss.

  3. Be well and God bless you, Michelle. Thank you for all you do.

  4. Dear God, give Mei courage and strength against all threats and unkindness, against evil, against tears, depression, and above all – fear. Strengthen Mei and her family and friends with Your love and grace. I want Marizela and all the missing, the shackled and abused of the world to be rescued and loved again forever – to feel the never-ending touch, the embrace and warm security of their family’s arms around them. I want families to never have to worry about the safety of their children ever again. Prayers peace and love for all the worried and suffering.

  5. I remember your columns about this right after it happened, Michelle. I have been to that very Safeway store and on the UW campus lots of times, but some years before the time in question. I’ve been to Discovery Park picking blackberries, getting stung by a yellow-jacket, and hanging out near the cliff for that beautiful view. I can picture you right there…

    My question would be what kind of suicide would you have for which no trace was ever found? Thank you for your suggestions, another of which I’d add: Whatever you do, do it right away! Even for a lost cellphone or what-have-you, the sooner you do something, the better chance you have of finding it. (Of course, this is nothing compared to the loss of a loved one, but I just wrote that for an example.)

    The not knowing is I suppose something that gives hope but more grief at the same time. You will see her again though, Michelle…

  6. 10 years to the day, I can’t imagine, not knowing, but still clinging to that tiny sliver of hope. Has to be super tough.

    I really can’t understand a “God” that allows things like this to happen so often. Much, much more sadness in the world than joy, I have questioned the existence of a God many times. Evil seems to always win in a world supposedly controlled by a Just and Mighty God. I guess God’s ways are not man’s ways because if I had the power of God, I know I would do things a lot differently.

    • Replies: @jsinton
    @Trinity

    You display an extreme lack of understanding of Jesus. You think of "God" as a Buddhist god where "pray for money" or "pray for luck" is what to do. To understand Jesus, you first assume your rewards are not here on earth but in heaven. Seems like a silly notion at first, but later you figure out "pray for those that kill you", which is completely revolutionary and counter intuitive. Jesus is unconditional love and absolute love. In short, if you don't get it, you don't get it.

    Replies: @Trinity, @jsinton

  7. I recently wondered if your beautiful cousin had been found. So sorry you and your family continue to deal with the unknown. God Bless, and I will include Marizella in our prayers

  8. @Trinity
    10 years to the day, I can't imagine, not knowing, but still clinging to that tiny sliver of hope. Has to be super tough.

    I really can't understand a "God" that allows things like this to happen so often. Much, much more sadness in the world than joy, I have questioned the existence of a God many times. Evil seems to always win in a world supposedly controlled by a Just and Mighty God. I guess God's ways are not man's ways because if I had the power of God, I know I would do things a lot differently.

    Replies: @jsinton

    You display an extreme lack of understanding of Jesus. You think of “God” as a Buddhist god where “pray for money” or “pray for luck” is what to do. To understand Jesus, you first assume your rewards are not here on earth but in heaven. Seems like a silly notion at first, but later you figure out “pray for those that kill you”, which is completely revolutionary and counter intuitive. Jesus is unconditional love and absolute love. In short, if you don’t get it, you don’t get it.

    • Replies: @Trinity
    @jsinton

    Oh sure, man. I make myself a doormat for everyone else to shit on while I live on Earth. Doesn't it mention something about not throwing your pearls before swine in the Bible? And I think that turning the other cheek business is for your brothers in Christ and not for some non-believer to belt you on the other cheek. "Pray for those that kill you?" Really.

    I don't pray for money. I don't pray for luck. I make my own money and my own luck but there are things that are out of my hands like evil and horrific crimes committed against the innocent and helpless. Even Mother Teresa once admitted that she once questioned the existence of a God after continually seeing evil triumph again and again over good.

    Yes, I do have faith there is a God and a Jesus, but I don't understand His ways and I highly doubt you do as well. I hope to one day have my questions answered by God and Jesus but for now I will just have to continue to believe that God's ways are beyond my understanding, but then again, I guess you are on the same level with God since you understand His ways.

    , @jsinton
    @jsinton

    Yes, I do have faith there is a God and a Jesus, but I don’t understand His ways

    No you don't. That's my whole point. Millions of people call themselves Christians, but fail to understand and believe the basic tenets. If you don't understand "His" ways, then you don't get it. For myself, I never believed the dogma, but I finally got around to the philosophy. Not believing the dogma is okay too, but not understanding the philosophy is not okay. So try a little harder if you call yourself Christian. Otherwise, you have no faith nor are you Christian. Like I said, if you don't get it, you don't get it. Hint: The cheat sheet is Sermon on the Mound. It's all there.

  9. So sorry to hear of your family’s loss of Marizela. My family and I often went to the University Village Safeway, shops and restaurants, in that year– 2011 At Saturday, during the mid-afternoon, that area was usually busy and quite safe. I had no qualms taking my children there. The 15-th Ave area near the campus would be a concern, but not at 3pm, even off of the avenue. Most of the areas mentioned in your posted notice, seem ok, except for the International district/Chinatown district. That is a different story. Parts of it were not safe, even at 3pm on a Saturday, especially near I-5. But, if you’re from Seattle, you likely know this. The transients who dwelt around that around that area probably would have a strong suspicion about who would do something like that.

    March 2011 was a terrible time for my family too. My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer then. We made many trips to Capitol Hill for radiation treatments in Fall of 2011.

  10. @jsinton
    @Trinity

    You display an extreme lack of understanding of Jesus. You think of "God" as a Buddhist god where "pray for money" or "pray for luck" is what to do. To understand Jesus, you first assume your rewards are not here on earth but in heaven. Seems like a silly notion at first, but later you figure out "pray for those that kill you", which is completely revolutionary and counter intuitive. Jesus is unconditional love and absolute love. In short, if you don't get it, you don't get it.

    Replies: @Trinity, @jsinton

    Oh sure, man. I make myself a doormat for everyone else to shit on while I live on Earth. Doesn’t it mention something about not throwing your pearls before swine in the Bible? And I think that turning the other cheek business is for your brothers in Christ and not for some non-believer to belt you on the other cheek. “Pray for those that kill you?” Really.

    I don’t pray for money. I don’t pray for luck. I make my own money and my own luck but there are things that are out of my hands like evil and horrific crimes committed against the innocent and helpless. Even Mother Teresa once admitted that she once questioned the existence of a God after continually seeing evil triumph again and again over good.

    Yes, I do have faith there is a God and a Jesus, but I don’t understand His ways and I highly doubt you do as well. I hope to one day have my questions answered by God and Jesus but for now I will just have to continue to believe that God’s ways are beyond my understanding, but then again, I guess you are on the same level with God since you understand His ways.

  11. anon[712] • Disclaimer says:

    I’m very sorry for what Michelle Malkin has been through.

    Whenever I hear something like this, I’m reminded of the case of Eliza Lam in L.A.:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Elisa_Lam

    Researcher into missing persons and former policeman David Paulides has written some interesting books about how many people go missing every year and leaving no trace.

    https://www.canammissing.com/missing_411.html

  12. @jsinton
    @Trinity

    You display an extreme lack of understanding of Jesus. You think of "God" as a Buddhist god where "pray for money" or "pray for luck" is what to do. To understand Jesus, you first assume your rewards are not here on earth but in heaven. Seems like a silly notion at first, but later you figure out "pray for those that kill you", which is completely revolutionary and counter intuitive. Jesus is unconditional love and absolute love. In short, if you don't get it, you don't get it.

    Replies: @Trinity, @jsinton

    Yes, I do have faith there is a God and a Jesus, but I don’t understand His ways

    No you don’t. That’s my whole point. Millions of people call themselves Christians, but fail to understand and believe the basic tenets. If you don’t understand “His” ways, then you don’t get it. For myself, I never believed the dogma, but I finally got around to the philosophy. Not believing the dogma is okay too, but not understanding the philosophy is not okay. So try a little harder if you call yourself Christian. Otherwise, you have no faith nor are you Christian. Like I said, if you don’t get it, you don’t get it. Hint: The cheat sheet is Sermon on the Mound. It’s all there.

  13. I think of this young lady often, and I’m saddened by how her disappearance has brought such despair into the lives of others. There is still hope, as in the case of Elizabeth Smart and others. I pray that such a miracle will happen in Michelle’s family.

  14. Michelle,
    Were there any other missing people during this time?
    From this area?
    Over weeks, months or years?
    Do any of those who are also missing share any similarities with your cousin?
    Age, ethnicity, height, weight, hair color?
    Have you consulted with any remote viewers?
    Someone should be able to pick up on her through the ether, especially if she disappeared.
    I believe this wholeheartedly.
    Has her spirit visited anyone in your family?
    I’ve had loved ones who pass visit me.
    It’s usually the ones who die suddenly without notice.
    The ones who are sick and say a formal goodbye usually pass through and I never hear from them or sense their presence.
    There is nothing worse than a missing loved one.
    It’s always better to know then to be left forever wondering.

  15. I’m sorry, Michelle. I apologize for humans — the universe.
    Nothing I can usefully say, except, sorry, & hang in. The world’s a bastard — but you know that too.

  16. Michelle, you and Marizela are always in my prayers – A Very Longtime Fan

  17. I am so sorry for your loss. I pray that Marizella will be found and that God will bring peace and comfort to you and your family.

  18. I don’t know if you read these comments Michelle, but I do remember when that happened and, as a parent, have thought about her often since. I still pray that there is a positive outcome.

    March 2011 was a very bad month. I have many Japanese friends, and what they went through was terrible too.

  19. I hope you get some answers someday. I would hate to see this be like Jon Benet Ramsey and just unsolved.

  20. I wish that I could say or help more but all the best, I am sorry for your loss.

  21. @Frank924
    I watch the video I noticed that she paused for a few moments after leaving the store because you can see by her shadow that she stopped possibly to check messages on her phone?

    I'm wondering if the private investigator checked all the surveillance cameras in the area that may have caught her movements beyond just leaving the store.

    Usually there are so many cameras you can track a person's movements sometimes several blocks later.

    Replies: @The Searchers

    I don’t know if the cell phone provider was asked or perhaps subpoenaed for records of cell phone use and location, since location can be determined by cell phone towers, giving a gps location in some cases. That may have occurred prior to widespread adoption of that technology.
    The National Intelligence agency actually monitors all cell phone conversations, although I don’t know if their records are accessible to local police.
    Never give up.

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